Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hello, Finland!

One of the joys--or sorrows--of blogging is to check the "stats" page every once in awhile to see who is--or isn't--reading.  Since I am an American living in Berlin and writing in English, it's obvious that most of the hits on my sight come from the U.S. and Germany. Sometimes, however, I will get a few hits that surprise me (Iran, for example), and this week I was amazed to see that there were more hits from the country of Finland than from any other nation!

For anyone following international gaming trends the past couple of years, it may come as no surprise that there is a thriving gaming--and game design culture--in Finland.  There are game publishers bringing their releases to Essen, and Finnish game designers getting their work published in other countries, including Germany.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Universe is Expanding

The Opinionated Gamers just posted a debate on the value or expansions for boardgame hobbyists. From the game designer’s perspective, this trend is also a mixed bag.

But first, we need to ask the question, “What started this expansion craze?”  With Eurogames, it must have been Settlers of Catan.  The reason for this is not only because Herr Teuber created a hit game, but because he invented a modular game system that can be varied in an infinite number of ways.

This is the “Holy Grail” of game design:  not only to create a great game, but to introduce a new gaming system to the hobby.  Gaming systems are easily varied and expanded upon, and this invites tinkering.  Much like a player who enjoys exploring different strategies in a particular game, the game designer can delight in exploring the game system he or she has created. Not only that—it invites fans of the game to become game designers by creating their own variants and scenarios.  Furthermore, published fan designs like Settlers Book give the players a sense of ownership over their favorite game.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

POSTCARD FROM BERLIN #51: The Waiting Game

We spend much of our lives waiting...

...waiting in line or in traffic...

...waiting for a special date...

...or waiting for the next turn in a boardgame...

I wrote about my personal battle with impatience in my newest article of my Postcards From Berlin series on Opinionated Gamers.

No one hates waiting more than a game designer...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Country Music

As someone who prefers variety to one particular style in just about everything, music has been no exception for most of my life.  When someone would ask what I listen to, I'd usually reply, "Everything--but Country."  I grew up listening to New Wave music from Britain and "hair metal" and rock 'n' roll from the U.S.  College introduced me to progressive rock, grunge, and a late appreciation for classic rock.  Later, I listened to rap and hip-hop as a basketball soundtrack, got aerobic workouts at techno trance clubs in Berlin (there was even a phase when I slept to drum 'n' bass CDs on repeat).  Jazz has also always appealed to me, as I played sax for a dozen years.  But even after some "Newgrass" music caught my liking, and I listened to some Johnny Cash after seeing the film, Walk the Line, I still avoided most country music (and my favorite Cash is still his cover of Nine Inch Nails haunting ballad, Hurt).

On my recent trip to the U.S., however, I found myself in the car with one of my sons, speeding around the twisting roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains with no CD's to choose from.  I wanted to listen to some music, but I was at the mercy of FM Radio, and as I hit the "search" button repeatedly, every station turned up a country ditty, accompanied by the familiar twangy vocals and steel guitars.  My 4-year -old German-born son asked, "Are they yodeling?"